Bravest Act on the Axis Side.

Discussion in 'Axis Units' started by Gerard, Dec 6, 2007.

  1. Kharkov43'

    Kharkov43' Junior Member

    Erich Hartmann

    Erich Alfred "Bubi" Hartmann (19 April 1922 – 20 September 1993), also nicknamed "Bubi" by allies and "The Black Devil" by his enemies, was a German fighter pilot and still is the highest scoring fighter ace in the history of aerial warfare. He claimed 352 aerial victories (of which 345 were won against the Soviet Air Force, and 260 of which were fighters) in 1,404 combat missions and engaging in aerial combat 825 times while serving with the Luftwaffe in World War II.

    From 1 February to 14 February 1945, Hartmann briefly led I./JG 53 as acting Gruppenkommandeur until he was replaced by Helmut Lipfert. In March of 1945, Hartmann, his score now standing at 336 aerial victories, was asked a second time by General Adolf Galland to join the Me-262 units forming to fly the new jet fighter. Hartmann attended the jet conversion program led by Heinrich Bär. Galland also intended Hartmann to fly with JV 44. Hartmann declined the offer, preferring to remain with JG 52. Some sources report that Hartmann's decision to stay with his unit was due to a request via telegram made by Oberstleutnant Hermann Graf.[37] Now Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 52, Erich Hartmann claimed his 350th aerial victory on 17 April 1945, in the vicinity of Chrudim. The last wartime photograph of Hartmann known was taken in connection with this victory.[38]
    At the end of the war, Erich Hartmann disobeyed General Hans Seidemann's order to Hartmann and Hermann Graf to fly to the British sector to avoid capture by Soviet forces. Hartmann later explained:
    I must say that during the war I never disobeyed an order, but when General Seidemann ordered Graf and me to fly to the British sector and surrender to avoid the Russians, with the rest of the wing to surrender to the Soviets. I could not leave my men. That would have been bad leadership.[39]
    After his capture, the U.S. Army handed Hartmann, his pilots, and ground crew over to the Soviet Union on 24 May 1945, where he was imprisoned in accordance with the Yalta Agreements which stated that airmen and soldiers fighting Soviet forces had to surrender directly to them. Hartmann and his unit were led by the Americans to a large open-air compound to await the transfer. The number of prisoners grew to 50,000. Living conditions deteriorated and some American guards turned "a blind eye" to escapes. In some cases, they assisted by providing food and maps.[41]
    After being handed over to the Soviets, the German group was split up into groups according to gender. Hartmann witnessed widespread rape and murder of civilians. When the outnumbered Americans tried to intervene the Soviet soldiers charged towards them, firing into the air and threatening to kill them. Order was later restored, and some of the guilty soldiers were hanged "on the spot" by a Soviet commander.[42]
    Initially, the Russians tried to convince Erich to cooperate with them. He was asked to spy on fellow officers and become a "Stukatch" or "stool pigeon". He refused and was given 10 days' solitary confinement in a four-by-nine-by-six-foot chamber. He slept on a concrete floor and was given only bread and water. On another occasion, the Soviets threatened to kidnap his wife and murder her (the death of his son was kept from Hartmann). During similar interrogations, about his knowledge of the Me 262, Hartmann was struck by a Soviet officer using a cane, prompting Hartmann to slam his chair down on the head of the Russian, knocking him out. Expecting to be shot, Erich was transferred back to the small bunker.[43]
    Hartmann, not ashamed of his war service, opted to go on hunger strike and starve rather than fold to "Soviet will", as he called it.[44] The Russians allowed the hunger strike to go on for four days before force feeding Hartmann. More subtle efforts by the Soviet authorities to convert Hartmann to Communism also failed. He was offered a post in the Luftstreitkräfte der Nationale Volksarmee (East German Air Force), which he refused:
    If, after I am home in the West, you make me a normal contract offer, a business deal such as people sign every day all over the world, and I like your offer, then I will come back and work with you in accordance with the contract. But if you try to put me to work under coercion of any kind, then I will resist to my dying gasp.[43]
  2. James S

    James S Very Senior Member Werner Hartenstein who surfaced to give aid to the survivors of the Laconia.
    He radioed his intention to give aid , asked for assistance and said he had life boats in tow.
    He marked them with a red cross and took survivors on board , he provided them with hot foos , water , medical attention and shelter from the hot tropical sun.
    Allied aircraft arrived and were ordered to attack , this put the pilots in an impossible position and they attacked.
    More survivors died as a result of this and Hartenstein cut them loose and took his boat down.
    I can only wonder ar how the survivors and the U-boat crew felt - "The Stockholm Syndrome" springs to mind.
    A moment of humanity and courage amid the uncompromising war at sea.
    Donitz's "Laconia Order" was later held against him at Nurenberg.

    I think of him because of his actions and the nature of the war which the U-boat crews fought.
    My late father once saw a sketch of a kriegsmarine flag done roughly on a school book which belonged to my elder brother .
    ( Why he did this is anyone's guess as he has no real interest in WW2 , then or now.)
    My father challanged him on it and told him that if he had any idea what they flag meant to so many he would not have drawn it , he went on to tell him that if he had ever seen a tanker explode at night , see the sea on fire and hear men dying he would think twice about it.
    In balance he told me that when he met surrendered U-boat men at the end of the war he found that they were just as glad as he was to see it over and that underneath the uniforms they were just as human as he was.

    Hartenstien showed this when he tried to do something for the mass of people he saw in the water - most of whom would die if he did not do something - what he did took courage and humanity - I speak as one whom has only expereince war in the "NI" sense - but I think to show humanity sometimes takes courage - especially when it is directed at helping your enemies.
    If I might also nominate another U-Boat Captain , this time a lesser known man - his name probably known to few.

    Oberleutnant zur See Wolfgang Leu who was commander on U-921.
    On 24th May 1944 921 was one of a number of boats trying to make their way from Norway into the Atlantic.
    Leu's boat was twice attacked in quick succession by two Sunderlands , the first was shot down ( a 422 RCAF aircraft) , the second came a few minutes later a 423 a Squadron aircraft.
    The main flak gun jammed and as the charges fell short he had time to dive as the Sunderland wenat around for a second run - he pushed the wounded guncrew down and ordered the boat down , closing the hatch from the outside.
    As the boat sank beneath him he was lost to the sea - the boat surfaced minutes later to look for him but his body was never found.
    Wolfgang Leu recieved no recognition for his actions and until comparitively recent times the commander of 921 at the time was often misnamed.
  3. tonyzamus

    tonyzamus Junior Member

    Von Poop wrote:

    And on Rommel & the Bersaglieri... one has to be polite on memorials.

    Contrary to popular myth the Bersaglieri achieved much for Rommel in North Africa. One has to be very careful with wartime myths surrounding the Italians. If one solely relies in the old biased books on the subjects, and Commonwealth Official Histories, one is bound to get a warped portrayal of the performance of Italian ground formations in WW2. After all, it was the Italian Brescia Division along with the Bersaglieri of the Ariete Division that kicked open a significant hole in the Australian lines at Tobruk in early May 1941, capturing around 400 Australian 'diggers' in the Italian area of penetration. And one must not to forget that it was the Bersaglieri that presented Rommel with his most significant trophy in the North African campaign, when with the help of Italian combat sappers, they pierced the British defences at Mersa Matruh in late June 1942, and took several thousand Allied POWs with hardly a shot fired due to severe demoralisation on the part of the British commanders. I guess Italian artillery gunners had played an important part in this battle, despite the number of air sorties that must have been directed against them, in subduing the defenders and breaking their will to resist in the British fortress. I guess this Italian victory is not mentioned in the Commonwealth Official Histories (British, Australian and New Zealand) due to the racist mentality of the Commonwealth commanders in WW2 and the official historians, but with the pasage of time history has set the record straight and it has been established in recent times that it was the Italian Bersaglieri that indeed secured this very important victory for Rommel when reading the following link;

    Comando Supremo: Mersa Matruh
  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Hi Tony and welome.

    Not one to speak on behalf of anyone but I think Adam was refering to Rommel having to be polite on memorials rather than his (Adams) own view.

    I'm sure he'll be along later to confirm me right or wrong :)

    Anyway I hope you enjoy the site ;)

  5. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Hi Tony, Welcome aboard.
    Drew's on the money there, check my earlier post for due credit to the Italians.
    (Comando Supremo an excellent site by the way, thought I had it on the links here but apparently not, have a feeling it was down when I last meant to add it - will amend.)

  6. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    Part of the story about Count Hyazinth Strachwitz von Gross-Zauche und Camminetz from Bryan Perrett's book "Iron Fist":

    On 1 April 1944 he was promoted to major general, a hitherto unheard-of elevation for reserve officer. he commanded the 1st Panzer Division briefly and in the autumn was appointed Commander (Armour) to Army Group North. This involved an almost continuous process of gathering together such armoured and Panzergrenadier units as he was able in order to shore up one sector of the crumbling after another. "Strachwitz is here - he'll sort it out!" was the reaction of more then one relived local commander when his battlegroup arrived.

    It was during this period that the Count achived one of his greatest coups. The front was temporarily quiet and once again he predicted the route along which the Russians would renew their offensive. With only four tanks he penetrated deep into their rear and carefully concealed his vehicles around chosen killing ground. In due course the first enemy tank units appeared, rolling towards front, completely oblivious of the German presence, and were quickly destroyed. More followed and met the same fate. Unable to indetify the source of their destruction, each Russian wave continued to belive that it lay to their front, when in fact it lay behind them. Incredibly, the Soviet commanders permitted the inexplicable massacre to continue; an hour after the first shot had been fired 105 of their tanks lay burning on the killing ground. Equally incredible was the fact that Strachwitz was able to withdraw his tiny unit intact.
  7. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Senior Member

    When evaluating the Laconia incident we must not forget most of the men in the water were Italian POW not enemies from a German perspective. AFAIK the identity of the attacking aircraft was never proved, far less direct orders to attack. The survivors after a "being cared for" by a group of Italian and German subs were finally rescued by French Vichy warships.

    As axis hero my favorite is Agostino Straulino, I can think of little that takes more guts than swimming inside Gibraltar with a pack of explosives tied to your chest. He went on to win an olimpic gold medal in the Star sailing class and terrorize generations of Italian naval cadets as captain of the school ship Amerigo Vespucci (see picture) one of the episodes I got from a friend was an attempt to moor by sailing backwards (he considered using the auxilliary engines cheating).
    Another well known episode is an encounter with the carrier USS Enterprise in the Atlantic while under full sail, the US ship signaled "you look beautiful who are you?" and he signaled back "Amerigo Vespucci and who are you?".
  8. Gotthard -
    not sure if I would put Wittman up for bravery - if any British Tank man was told to stop an attack by SIX Tiger Tanks in 1944 - he would do it knowing full well that he had been given a very small chance of surviving.

    However had he been given the same order to stop an attack by a bunch of Sherman's even the much vaunted Firefly's plus half tracks - soft skinned lorries etc - but you can ONLY have SIX Tigers - then he would have welcomed that order without a qualm - and would probably have done exactly as Wittman did !

    Tigers were not unvulnerable, just because they were designed good, doesnt mean the allies were not able to compete with them. and 6 tanks destroying the car pool of a whole brigade is an act of bravery especially when fighting in urban environment without infantry support.

    lets turn the question around......werent the axxis soldiers all heroes for fighting at all, even they were threatened by allied airsuperiority all the time? an advantage you cant compare to the rather "situation related" advantage of thicker armor. but i guess you understand what i mean....does allied air superiority decrease their reckoning in any way??
  9. Hilts

    Hilts Fat Biker Bloke

    Sophie Scholl? :poppy:
    James S likes this.
  10. once again: dont mix up the word german with axxis, nazi or whatever. just the nationality.

    sophie scholl was one of the greates/ bravest germans!! but definitly did not belong to axxis forces.

    besides of that: of course i did recognize what your intention actually was.
  11. Stig O'Tracy

    Stig O'Tracy Senior Member

  12. Fireman

    Fireman Discharged

    The problem with bravery is that it is extremely subjective, emotional and very quantifiable, not to mention political! For example did the men who fought at Rorkes Drift deserve the V.Cs that were lavished on them or was there a strong emotional and political motive for awarding medals where men had to fight for their lives after a disaster? Was the publicity that surrounded Wittmann more political than brave? There were a whole tranche of medals, including V.Cs won in Afghanistan not long ago but relatively few now and no V.C.s. Maybe it was more politically expedient then but not now?

    So for the bravest act? I think I would go with the submariners. I think I'm correct when I say they were all, in the early days anyway, volunteers and the death rate was extremely high. I suppose that must automatically cover just about any volunteer! When you don't have to do it, but you do; then that is bravery in my book. I think when you are fighting, perhaps for your life, then it throws a complete and different picture on it and bravery takes second place.
  13. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    lets turn the question around......werent the axxis soldiers all heroes for fighting at all, even they were threatened by allied airsuperiority all the time? an advantage you cant compare to the rather "situation related" advantage of thicker armor. but i guess you understand what i mean....does allied air superiority decrease their reckoning in any way??

    Given the no-quarter fight against the Soviets, draconian displine of the Wehrmacht and absolute control of life in the Third Reich, the will to fight-on can be interpreted as fatalism. That is, there was nothing else to do.

    But I get your point, there were many points where Wittman could have turned back and nobody would have questioned whether he did his duty.

    fritz christen in my opinion

    Not an easy choice for me, but no question about results.

    once again: dont mix up the word german with axxis, nazi or whatever. just the nationality.

    sophie scholl was one of the greates/ bravest germans!! but definitly did not belong to axxis forces.

    besides of that: of course i did recognize what your intention actually was.

  14. Rule.303

    Rule.303 Member

    Jospeh Schultz was a German soldier on the Eastern Front. On the 20th of July 1941, he along with seven of his brothers in arms were sent out on what they thought to be a routine mission. After a short march they soon understood that they were on a quite different mission than what they were used to: Ahead of them, they saw fourteen captured local civilians who were blindfolded , positioned up against a wall. The 8 soldiers in Schultz platoon were halted 10-15 meters away, and an NCO ordered them to execute every one of the civilian. Seven of the soldiers took aim, and in the silence that followed you could only hear the sound of a rifle beeing dropped. Jospeh Schultz disobeyed a direct order, dropped his rifle and walked slowly towards the 14 civilians which only heard cautious footsteps in the grass infront of them. The young Schultz positioned himself together with the soon-to-be executed civilians, and choosed death instead of killing hopeless civilians. A few seconds later 14 civilians and 1 German soldier laid dead in the grass. He was executed by his own brothers in arms by order of the NCO.

    This action shows that its actually possible to do evil things. Its possible to be a free-thinking morally human-being no matter what is happening around you. But, no other of his 7 brothers in arms followed his example. It was no revolt. No large-scale deserting. This is no hero-story. Neither a story about a victim. No-one was saved by Joseph Schultz action. Everyone were shot. Everyone plus one more. But he was a moral example. He refused to fire because its wrong to fire. It was no different on how many that were shot. But it was a difference to him. And to us.
    The actions of Joseph Schultz

    This gets my vote.
  15. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    This gets my vote.

    Very hard to top that Rule! I will second that motion.

    I think consideration should also be made for the collective crews of the U-Boats later in the war. Putting to sea when the war was clearly lost and with little chance of either success or survival took courage and dedication of the highest order.
  16. marcus69x

    marcus69x I love WW2 meah!!!

    This gets my vote.

    I'll third that mate. A difficult choice to make, no doubt, but it is proof that there is always a choice.

    Those doils during the Nuremburg Trials crying they were just following orders..... tut tut!!!
  17. fortunateson

    fortunateson Junior Member

    One of the bravest for me , would be Dr Ottmar Kohler , the "angel of stalingrad". Brought out to report to hitler, he did not mince his words regarding the appalling state of the sixth army, in particular , what passed as medicine in that hell-hole. Upon being told that he need not return to stalingrad, Kohler decided to go back , and help as best he could. For me, incredible courage and devotion to duty. A credit to his profession.
  18. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Just bumping this post as chatting with Kate about him & thought few more people ought to read it.
    Dave55 likes this.

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